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Overall Rating

Awesome: 20.51%
Worth A Look55.13%
Average: 12.82%
Pretty Bad: 8.97%
Total Crap: 2.56%

7 reviews, 36 user ratings

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Sunshine (2007)
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by Erik Childress

"From A Satellite To A Bone"
3 stars

Like the solar system’s central entity at the center of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, the science-fiction adventure has been a dying breed. I’m not talking about just any ol’ story with a scientific conceit or stories with a futuristic setting on Earth. Westerns and musicals get all the play about being the “forgotten genre” which pop-up occasionally with gusto (Unforgiven, Chicago), overstay a quick welcome (American Outlaws, Dreamgirls) and go back into hibernation. But what has become of the grandiose outer space stories; the ones set aboard spaceships with a handful of characters, a mission to be accomplished usually thwarted by outside, or more interestingly, interior forces? Of late we’ve gone back to the Star Wars well and the adamantly entertaining Firefly spinoff, Serenity. Others have fallen to either insanely guilty pleasure territory (Event Horizon, Mission To Mars), outright boredom (Red Planet) or enough editors on a hunt for cohesiveness (Supernova). Boyle and his writing partner, Alex Garland, were on the right track with Sunshine. In fact, it was well on its way to recapturing the essence of the pioneers of the genre and reinvigorating a sort of space journey procedural we usually associate with cop dramas. But its final act is such a sickening betrayal of the first two-thirds that you may forget all the positives on the way out.

In the year 2057, the sun is on its last flames and spacecraft Icarus II is on its way to deliver it’s “payload”; a giant nuclear bomb specially designed to reignite the star and save the planets that depend on it. Capa (Cillian Murphy) is the ship’s Oppenheimer joining seven crew members seven years after the failed first mission. Kaneda (Hiroyuki Sanada) is your Captain for this flight. Communications officer Harvey (Troy Garity) is second-in-command. Cassie (Rose Byrne) pilots the bird with Trey (Benedict Wong) in navigation. Corazon (Michelle Yeoh) handles the garden. Mace (Chris Evans) is the engineer showing a few cracks in his own armor and Searle (Cliff Curtis) finds serenity testing the limits of the sun’s power.

On their final approach, they receive the great curse of any space adventure film – a signal off-course. This one belonging to the original Icarus. Logically assuming its crew no longer exists, the debate still follows a statistical logic. Two bombs give them two chances to light this candle. Sixteen months of flawless travel didn’t plan for this roadblock and events immediately are kicked into motion that puts the crew into one dangerous situation after another.

The set pieces which follow are increasingly extraordinary in both concept and problem-solving. Scientists inexperienced in the ways of astronaut spacewalking isn’t anything new under the sun, but when you’re one revolution of your ship away from coming face-to-face with that sun, urgency takes on new meaning. Even greater are the risks involved in chancing a trip through any portion of space without a suit. Try some 272 degrees below zero on your skin and see how you make out. With the numbers ranging from calculated science to survival instincts, Sunshine on more than one occasion has a Lifeboat-like feel with decisions being made on sacrificing the expendable and saving the necessities, usually with Evans’ Mace at the forefront.

Evans has been the only sign of life in the Fantastic Four series and after first being unrecognizable here, turns in a truly credible dramatic performance that helps give Sunshine a grave reminder of the human element at stake amidst the hardware. The others may break free of the colorful personality milieu associated with streamlined casts (mainly cause there’s little persona beyond their cultural backgrounds) but they gain credibility through their actions and the tight pacing of Boyle’s direction. And if the review stopped here you might be rushing out to see the film. Just as outer space is cursed with those errant signals, the one that should concern you is that this is another Danny Boyle/Alex Garland derailment.

Boyle has had third act trouble going all the way back to Shallow Grave and Trainspotting, which ranged from unprovoked mayhem to conventional monotony. Garland’s collaboration didn’t exactly improve Boyle’s wrap-up techniques with The Beach although 28 Days Later was more satisfactory if not entirely innovative. Sunshine may become the new standard for referencing schizophrenic denouements. This is The Manitou of preposterous final acts. Only with that devil spine fetus film, if the film went into space to fight a hellbound imp with lasers it was par for the course. Imagine Solaris going the route of Event Horizon almost down to the makeup effects and you have the surface of why Sunshine disappoints so monumentally. It’s a literal deus ex machina from Hell that foregoes any attempt to use it as some spiritualized warning. Instead it turns all manner of any scientific suspension in the film into a flesh-and-blood maniac killer with blurred-out confrontations and action so shoddily constructed it will inspire less conversation about its meaning then it may boos and walkouts.

Can I recommend Sunshine through the artificiality of the star rating? It’s really hard when the only thing I know for sure is that I have never liked so much of a movie and hated it so equally. How can one remedy the two parts? Maybe if you go see it, walk out after you hear about the oxygen anamoly and then e-mail me, or better yet, imagine part of the experience is filling in the final act yourself. There’s no wrong answer when anything would have been more satisfying. While most 2001 enthusiasts choose not to acknowledge Peter Hyams’ solution-oriented, thriller sequel, it’s a film that still stood alone and clearly inspired Garland enough to borrow many of its plot points, suspense sequences and even final images. That film may have taken place 47 years before Sunshine, but while its first two acts earn their advancement through the course of time, its final 25 minutes set it back to prehistoric times and I just can’t throw it a bone.

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originally posted: 07/20/07 14:00:00
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User Comments

12/25/14 Langano Laughable. 2 stars
5/04/11 the dork knight A bit chaotic in the third act, as mentia takes hold. I got lost. 4 stars
9/17/09 Silkworm Very atmospheric and arty - story a bit predictable 4 stars
7/14/09 Abhishek Chakraborty The users who've commented are right. The first 2/3 makes it awesome. bear with the rest 5 stars
1/14/09 Shaun Wallner Kept me on the edge of the seat! 4 stars
1/02/09 Jq Phenomenal sci-fi film. One of the best movies of the 2000s. 5 stars
10/21/08 David Hollands Borderline retarded. Boyle proves he has as much storytelling intelligence as my pet rock. 2 stars
9/04/08 Charles Tatum Familiar, but done to perfection 5 stars
8/28/08 mr.mike Agree with SJ,Chris and Ivana...unfortunately they're right. 4 stars
3/07/08 NWANKWO OK Best scientific adventure film,if the scene can happen in real life. 5 stars
3/01/08 Ivana Mann Intelligent, atmospheric chiller. Too bad the ending sucked ass...could've been perfect! 4 stars
2/02/08 Chris Fantastic film up to the last 25 minutes. 4 stars
1/27/08 SJ Great for 2/3 of movie. Falls apart after that. Too bad!!! 4 stars
1/24/08 Rick Good first 2/3. Rest was rather mundane "slasher" type movie that negated the merits of th 2 stars
1/22/08 gcc great visuals/direction.But very much like Event Horizon 4 stars
1/21/08 Brian Mckay Gorgeous and stunning Sci-Fi epic. One of the best films that nobody saw in 'O7 4 stars
1/12/08 Servo Freaking awsome, smart, suspensful and just gorgeous to look at. 4 stars
1/02/08 MickJ interesting premise, ruined by one dimensional characters and horror. 2 stars
12/10/07 aleta great movie 5 stars
12/04/07 Matt Goes off the rails with a daft subplot in the last 30 mins or so. Good, otherwise. 3 stars
11/15/07 Alice If I want to see video clips, I'll watch MTV 1 stars
10/17/07 Will Brilliant. 5 stars
10/08/07 steve newman A remarkable twist after one hour - woul dhave been better to leave same pace - still go se 4 stars
9/11/07 damalc Alien + 2001 + Altered States 4 stars
9/09/07 daveyt enjoyable, but couldn't help feeling I'd seen it all before 3 stars
9/08/07 Chris J. Truely impressive film, despite 3rd act being slightly disjointed. 5 Stars. 5 stars
8/12/07 Gary G started out verey interesting, but the last 20 minutes or so were way too confusing 3 stars
8/11/07 Eric The best sci-fi adventure in years. Fantastic movie. 5 stars
8/07/07 Private Filmmaking surpassed the story. But some impressive scenes. 4 stars
8/01/07 SciFi All the science, and none of the fiction. Ultimately many failed opportunities. 2 stars
7/31/07 Vagile A truly gorgeous film 5 stars
7/30/07 Crispin Some stumbles but it has more than enough to pull it through to the end. 5 stars
7/29/07 Elizabeth S Starts off so promisingly, but totally blows the third act. 2 stars
7/28/07 Ole Man Bourbon Event Horizon Part Deux 3 stars
7/20/07 Doug What a mess. Pretentious clap-trap AND a haunted-house slaughter. No, thanks. 1 stars
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  20-Jul-2007 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jan-2008

  05-Apr-2007 (15)

  12-Apr-2007 (M)

[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Danny Boyle

Written by
  Alex Garland

  Rose Byrne
  Cliff Curtis
  Cillian Murphy
  Chris Evans
  Troy Garity
  Michelle Yeoh
  Benedict Wong

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